After 28 years of being together, my husband and I divorced. My son and two daughters were in their teens. The divorce and the years leading up to it had been very painful for each of us in the family. After the divorce and the heartache it brought, our dog Molly and I became companions, and it felt to me like we both were healing.
No one had given her much attention during most of the years of her life, because of the dysfunction in our family.
When my children were 24, 22, and 19, Molly stopped eating, and it was clear that something major was wrong. My son and I took her to the vet, who said that she was dying.
Gathering To Say Goodbye
He suggested that he could put her to sleep. We decided to take her home, so we could say goodbye to her. I decided that this was something we should do together, so I called the girls,who weren’t too far from home, and asked them to come from college.
We put Molly on a blanket in the middle of the living room, and we brought sleeping bags and blankets so they all could sleep around her, at arm’s length from her. Everybody was tender toward her, and we cried. It was the first time since the divorce three years before that we had cried together.
Molly allowed us to do that.
It seemed to me to be a very important thing to be able to do together.
The next morning my middle daughter said she felt strongly that we should not put Molly to sleep. She felt that it would be killing her, that it would be murder. She cried hard as she expressed her thoughts. I said that we wouldn’t do anything until she wanted to. Later, my daughter watched quietly as Molly tried to walk, fell, and struggled to get back up.
After awhile, she said that she thought Molly was suffering, and that we should take her to the vet.
We put Molly in my daughter’s car. My son wanted to drive separately. I think he wanted to cry privately, before he cried with us.
The vet was wonderful. My daughter was crying, and begged him, “Can’t you do anything for her?”
He didn’t say a thing, but he warmly opened his arms and hugged her long and hard. He said, “You can stay here with Molly for as long as you want.”
There were lots of tears and crying, and we each talked to her.
We stayed for a long while in the room with her. The vet assured my daughter that Molly would die in peace. When we were ready, he came and he injected her, and then she was gone.
Beginning a New Chapter For Closeness
We bought her ashes home, and I told the children that when we plant a fruit tree, we will have a ceremony and put her ashes at the root of the tree.
I'll plant a fig tree this spring, and we will remember her together.
The chance to be together and cry together after the divorce and so many difficult years was the main gift Molly gave us. It was a healing time, and we came through it more conscious of our closeness. My girls and I still cry every time we see a yellow Labrador retriever like Molly.
Has your child been affected by or experienced the death of a pet or loved one? Read this article on ways to handle their questions and concerns: Mommy, Do Kids Die?; Helping Children with Death
Read Helping Children with Divorce or Separation and Making a Good Mix: Seven Tips for Stepparenting and Blended Families